NATIONALIST and unionist cultural traditions stood side-by-side at a fair for school pupils yesterday.
Billed as a cultural awareness conference, the event saw musical demonstrations and stalls from those of both backgrounds, with an estimated 200-plus pupils enjoying the various attractions.
The event was attended by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and the Gaelic Athletic Association, as well as the Apprentice Boys and the Sinn Fein Culture Minister and former IRA member Caral Ni Chuilin.
The event saw presentations and a question-and-answer session from the different organisations.
Among those in attendance at the University of Ulster campus in Magee, Londonderry, were 16 pupils aged around 14 to 15 from largely-Protestant Lisneal College in the east of the city.
Vice-principal Susan Keown said: “They’re taking it all in, they’re really enjoying it. They are getting a lot from it.
“The whole thrust of today is cultural awareness – but no-one’s culture is being undermined.”
Dr David Hume, director of services for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said: “I did a presentation about language and culture and how it doesn’t have to be an adversarial thing.
“There are differences between the organisations.
“They’re not always going to see everything the same way.
“But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t explain to the wider public their background,” he said.
The event, taking place from about 9.30am to mid-afternoon, was arranged under the auspices of Minister Ni Chuilin’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
The Sinn Fein MLA said in a statement: “The organisations involved in this conference today all have strong and historic roots within their communities.
“If we are to continue to move towards a peaceful and prosperous society we must work towards reducing distrust and misunderstanding by building understanding of one another’s traditions.”